What Should A Company Expect From Its Marketing Program?

Eight ways to evaluate results

Getting something for nothing seems to be a universal human desire that extends into the gases and welding arena. For example, company owners and managers are often heard to ask, “What should we expect to get out of our marketing program? How will our dollar investment translate into increased sales?”

Although the questions seem appropriate, they are dead wrong when it comes to marketing. The job of a company’s marketing program is not to increase sales–or even to make sales. Marketing has one objective: to create customers.

Marketing has nothing to do with selling, although it has everything to do with creating a proper environment so that making the sale is the logical, appropriate and compelling next step. In other words, the task of marketing is to establish a climate so that the sales force can excel in its efforts.

Within this context, then, what kind of results can a company expect from its marketing program? Here are eight tangible, measurable ways to evaluate a marketing program.

Differentiate Your Company, Product or Service from the Competition
By far, the most serious criticism a business may have to face is that it looks like every other outfit in its industry. From the customer’s viewpoint, there may be little or no way to pinpoint why it is beneficial to do business with one company rather than another. When this happens, of course, the final decision will, more often than not, be based on price–and price alone.

In far too many instances, companies literally steal from each other when it comes to their marketing efforts. All the brochures look alike, with the same photos, the same words, the same cover designs. “In our industry, this is how it’s done.” This is the denial of differentiation. Looking alike is a killer today.

Continuing Flow of Quality Leads
For some reason, company executives focus attention on how much marketing is going to increase sales. In reality, a proper test is to measure the flow of appropriate leads both currently and over an extended period of time.

Although it may seem elementary or obvious, it’s easy to forget that leads precede sales. If a sales force is busy following up on qualified leads, sales will naturally increase. On the other hand, if the company’s salespeople must spend their time trying to get through doors and locate prospects, then their time will be used prospecting–and not making sales.

Stay in the Customer’s Mind
It is easy to forget the decision-making process that goes on in just about every level of every business. It goes something like this: When a need arises, whoever comes to mind first gets the business. Although we want to think that even our best customers think of us first, they are probably buying items or services from others–even if we can handle the job or order. In the same way, they fail to think of us when the buying decision is made.

A primary role of marketing is to stay in the customer’s mind at all times. Developing programs that reinforce awareness is an essential element of good marketing.

Lock on the Marketplace
Being recognized as a serious player and a leader in the field are essential qualities for attracting customers today. In order to be accurately perceived by customers and prospects, careful and thorough effort is required to plan, shape and continually foster a consistent image.

Too many firms hold the view that “doing a good job” is all that’s necessary in order to get business. If this were true, then why are so many shoddy, second-class suppliers still getting orders–and taking business away from companies that can do better, more reliable work?

Expertise and Knowledge
“Here’s what we can do for you.” These words are heard every day of the week and, almost without exception, what follows is the price. Doing business is like trying to balance on a one-legged stool. When that one leg is price, it’s easy to fall off!

You need to communicate your company’s capabilities to customers and prospects. This isn’t just listing the equipment it has on the production floor or the number of service representatives. The best way to differentiate a business is through its level of knowledge. This is really what sets it apart from everyone else in the field.

An EFFECTIVE Marketing Program Must. . .
  1. Differentiate a company, product or service from the competition.
  2. Create a continuing flow of quality leads.
  3. Keep a company in the customer’s mind.
  4. Give a company a lock on the marketplace.
  5. Showcase a company’s expertise and knowledge.
  6. Give a company long-term orientation.
  7. Be customer-focused.
  8. Be a vital force in customer retention.

Long-Term Orientation
American business seems to be suffering from what we call “The McDonald’s Syndrome.” “The quicker, the better” has become the dominant business philosophy. We think only in terms of a week, a month, a quarter and, at the most, a year. We are so preoccupied by today’s performance that we don’t have time to implement strategies for making certain we have customers three, four, five or more years from now.

One of the functions of a marketing program is to keep our eyes focused on making sure we’re in business for many, many tomorrows.

When some companies tell you about how much they care for their customers, it is clear that the “customers” they are talking about are in their executive suite and the boardroom. They act as if their “customers” are the people who sign the checks, not the ones who pay the bills.

To illustrate the point, a marketing services firm was asked to review and then comment on a company brochure, which was obviously the centerpiece of the firm’s marketing activities. In a report to the managing partner, the report included a comment about the brochure’s table of contents and the brochure copy itself. There were just three headings for the brochure: Our goals. Our approach. Our experience. The italics have been added to dramatize the point.

Could this brochure be used? Absolutely. In fact, it would make an effective orientation document for new employees of the firm. It tells the firm’s story from its own viewpoint, but it fails enormously to communicate the message that it understands its clients and their needs. A marketing brochure must make certain that attention is totally directed to customers and prospects.

Customer Retention
There is often so much concern for getting new business that maintaining and expanding existing business is easily forgotten. It is a mistake to harbor the notion that marketing has only to do with picking the fruit off the tree. It has just as much to do with caring for the fruit that has been picked to make sure it doesn’t spoil.

Although it’s not widely discussed, customers leave because they feel ignored, insignificant, forgotten. When this happens, they seek new relationships in order to reignite their value to a vendor.

Without even recognizing that it’s happening, companies allow customer relationships to become dull, empty and lifeless. A routine sets in that fails to keep the fire alive. The eyes of a professional marketer never leave current customers in an effort to strengthen the relationship and the bond that exists between them.

By asking the correct questions, it is relatively easy to determine whether or not a marketing program is on track. If marketing is carefully planned and effectively implemented, then a company can expect a variety of positive, business-building results. But measuring marketing with a sales yardstick is inappropriate. Creating customers is the marketing department’s responsibility, while getting those customers to buy is the job of the sales force.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
70_grahamjohnr Meet the Author
John R. Graham is president of Graham Communications, a marketing services and sales consulting firm in Quincy, Massachusetts and on the Web at www.grahamcomm.com.